The priorities of Lydney Town Council are still not the priorities of the people | Zac Arnold

The decision by Lydney Town Council to award their employees a £500 bonus each is abhorrent as small businesses and the poorest in society suffer the most as a result of this pandemic.These employees who have been working from home, now believed to be on full pay, are already not experiencing the level of suffering of those left to the will of the insufficient furlough scheme, or even those that miss the opportunity to access even this basic support.

Whilst I was on Lydney Town Council real progress was made in many areas, but this progress appears to be being undone by the autocratic leadership of Cllrs Walter Leach and Richard Kemsley alongside their new Town Clerk. None of these individuals seem to grasp the concept of democracy, all have showed consistent disregard for basic human rights and senior officials are of the opinion they don’t need to follow the law, but you do… and I did when I was a member. In my time at Lydney Town Council reforms were made that began to bring the Council’s Standing Orders and Financial Regulations into the 21st Century, the scheme of delegation was largely scrapped to restore an element of democracy and your hard earned money was saved through the reform of the staffing leadership structures. The secret Cabal that was the Personnel Committee was disbanded, all but one of the corrupted members and officials removed from the Council and majorly overhauled.

The savings that were made then allowed for a small but important freeze in Council tax, putting that extra little bit of money in the pockets of ordinary residents. We declared a Climate Emergency and started to work more proactively with youth groups and young people and I attempted to expand the accountability the public has over its Council by pushing for livestreaming of Council meetings online, a proposal dismissed then but conveniently revisited now. The benefit of hindsight I suppose, it provides the excuse for ineffective leadership. Whilst there is some good work that the Council continues to do, the fundamental attitudes have not changed. They look after each other over their community, they walk all over the laws that they say we have to abide by and they will consistently trample on the human rights of those that express opinions that they don’t like.

I broke ranks with Labour to put Lydney before my party, I believed that this was best served with a vote for Cllr Walter Leach as Mayor of Lydney. Something that contributed to my eventual suspension from the Labour Party. Its safe to say that throwing my party away to support this man is a decision I bitterly regret. Somebody who appeared at face value to be level-headed, understanding and collaborative was instead autocratic, completely out of touch with the struggles of those that are suffering the most in our society and willing to pick which parts of the laws that govern his office he wants to follow.

The people of Lydney shouldn’t be getting disengaged right now, there needs to be real scrutiny and there is still no sign of a proper independent investigation into the events surrounding Lydney Town Council in the past decade, in particular from 2018 to 2020.

Watch them, always.

Zac Arnold

Former Vice Chairman of the Lydney Town Council Finance & Scrutiny Committee

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